Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Slumgullion

Slumgullion, Image credit: Alleko Licensed by iStock

The temperatures are starting to get cooler. The sun is lower in the sky. It brings back memories of late afternoon, after-school tag football games at Borts Field. By the time I got home and cleaned up, I was starved! At least I thought so.

One of the favorite comfort foods mom made was slumgullion. It was also called goulash, American goulash, American chop suey, or if it came out of a can, Beefaroni. In Columbus, where I now live, there is a cheesier version, known as Johnny Marzetti from its origins at Marzetti’s Restaurant in Columbus. In both my family and my wife’s, it was slumgullion.

At its most basic, slumgullion used macaroni noodles (or penne), 1-2 pounds of ground beef, onions, and tomato sauce (or pasta sauce or marinara). Whereas Johnny Marzetti adds a thick layer of cheddar cheese and was baked as a casserole, you might sprinkle grated cheddar over the top of the dish after all the ingredients were mixed and you’d be set.

Basically, you boiled your pasta, while sautéing your onions (and whatever else you added, like garlic, celery, chopped tomatoes, and peppers) and then adding your ground beef and browning it, draining off the fat. Then you added your sauce and your favorite herb-spice blend, heat it all through, and then mix it in with your pasta, sprinkle cheese over it, warm it through if needed and serve!

Seasoning is where you really make this dish yours. You can go for a traditional Italian mix of Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, rosemary, and parsley. I’ve also seen versions of the recipe with taco seasoning, or Indian curry. I might add my condiment of choice, sriracha sauce to add some zip. This is one of those dishes where “season to taste” is the rule.

It was the perfect working class meal for those cool autumn evenings. It was simple to make, filling, and inexpensive and made the house smell wonderful. Chances are, sooner or later you would have dinner with a friend and then there was the dilemma of whose mom made the best slumgullion. If you were smart, you just said it was “real good” and kept your thoughts to yourself.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

11 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Slumgullion

  1. My grandmother, who lived her whole life in Lorain, Ohio, made this and called it slumgullion. I don’t think I’ve met anyone outside of my family who knew what slumgullion was!

    • That’s what both of our families called it, but a number of comments on FB yielded a number of other names. The most interesting is Johnny Marzetti, which actually came from the Marzetti family in Columbus (same as the salad dressing). This was a casserole baked in the oven. Slumgullion was made on top of the stove, kind of a pasta stew. Others call it beefaroni, slumgush, goulash, and a variety of other names!

  2. OMG.. When I saw this post I was thrilled. We had slumgullion often in our house. The only thing my mom did different was she used egg noodles. I make it every now and again but and it’s good but it just doesn’t taste like my mom’s.

  3. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Seven Years of Food Posts | Bob on Books

  4. My mother called it Slumgullion and it was light on any herbs and spices. I tried without success to make it like my mother’s. ROY founder, Bobbi Allen, told me to look into their first book’s recipe for Beefaroni. It tastes exactly like my mother’s minus the red pepper flakes. It just keeps getting better day by day. Perfect comfort food.

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